Pittsburgh police under investigation after video shows halfway house beating
Authorities in Pittsburgh are reviewing two officers’ conduct for hitting a man 17 times with their batons while arresting him last August, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.
Security camera footage shows the officers approaching 32-year-old Lonnie Jenkins inside the Downtown Renewal Center and quickly pushing him against a wall before starting to use their weapons.
One of the officers in the video, Brian Wissner, stated in a complaint that he heard Jenkins arguing with the facility’s security staff and asked for back-up.
But as WPXI-TV reported, the video shows Jenkins standing alone and holding what his attorney said was his cell phone as Wissner approaches.
The footage does not have audio, so it is unclear if the officers talked to Jenkins before they arrested him. However, Wissner wrote in the complaint that he shoved Jenkins for lunging “suddenly and aggressively” toward him.
Wissner also said that Jenkins made a fist “in an attempt to punch me” before he was intercepted by Officer James Zigarella. The two officers can be seen hitting Jenkins repeatedly before he drops to the floor. Jenkins is handcuffed shortly thereafter.
The complaint stated that Wissner hit Jenkins with his baton nine times, while Zigarella hit him eight times.
“We looked at this video — believe me we looked at it numerous times,” Assistant chief of investigations Maurita Bryant said at a press conference on Monday. “We do not see anything inappropriate or wrong at this time.”
The head of the facility, Doug Williams, told WPXI that Jenkins refused to submit to a search for drugs before the encounter. Police said security staff found heroin in Jenkins’ possession while checking another resident for contraband.
“We attempted to work with the guy,” Williams said. “We attempted to let him cooperate and go with police and he resisted that.”
Jenkins, who was staying at the facility after being released from a prison stint for drug-related charges, was charged with drug possession and resisting arrest following the encounter. A third charge of aggravated assault was dismissed at his preliminary hearing.
Both the city’s Office of Municipal Investigations and Citizen Police Review Board are investigating the arrest.
Jenkins’ attorney, Scott Wescott, called the incident a case of police brutality.
“It’s an assault by these officers of the law, and it’s disgusting,” he said.
Watch the footage, as posted by WPXI, below.
[h/t The Free Thought Project]